Do Young Children Understand Anonymity & Does Anonymity Influence their Sharing?
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Previous research has confirmed that numerous variables influence children’s sharing; however, little work has investigated whether children share differently in anonymous and non-anonymous contexts. Manipulating anonymity affords one way of testing whether children, like adults, share strategically less as anonymous donors than as identified donors. Testing children’s anonymous sharing allows speculation on factors that may motivate children’s sharing. Thus, the goals of this dissertation were to (1) shed light on children’s understanding of anonymity, (2) examine whether anonymity influences generosity, and (3) test for preferences for anonymous versus non-anonymous sharing. This dissertation explored 3- and 5-year-old children’s anonymous sharing through four experiments, which empirically tested the following research questions: (1) Do young children understand anonymous sharing?; (2) Does anonymity influence how much children share?; and (3) Do children prefer to share as, and receive from anonymous or identified donors? These questions contribute to the understanding of motivational and contextual factors that could influence children’s sharing. Experiments 1 and 2 assessed children’s understanding of anonymous sharing. Results indicated that children understood identified sharing; however, 5-year-olds understood anonymous sharing more reliably than 3-year-olds. In Experiments 1, 2, and 4, dictator games were used to test whether anonymity impacted children’s generosity. Results suggested that children shared similarly regardless of whether they were anonymous or identified donors; even when children chose whether they shared as anonymous or identified donors. Finally, Experiments 3 and 4 examined whether children preferred to share as, and receive from anonymous or identified donors. Results demonstrated that children strongly preferred to both share as, and receive from identified donors. Together, information from these experiments suggests that (1) 5-year-olds’ understanding of anonymous sharing has begun to develop; this understanding has emerged for 3-year-olds but is more fragile; (2) at age 5 years, anonymity may not influence children’s generosity; and (3) school-aged children have a preference for identified versus anonymous sharing. In summary, this dissertation provides information on a relatively unexamined area of children’s prosocial development. This work offers direction for future research and influences the interpretation of previous research that tested very young children in paradigms featuring anonymity.